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Book: Bounty Hunters of the Palace of Amino
Chapter 38: Deep Scars

The Ephluvii System, a collection of twelve varied planets, was of little significance as far as galactic economics, politics, entertainment and violence were concerned. Its only claim to fame was its fourth planet, Sanctius, which, with a diameter of two hundred and seventy-seven point seven-four-seven thousand kilometres, was the largest known gas giant. This incredible planet had seven moons, one of the most interesting of which was the smallest, Dinky, three kilometres in diameter and with a curious, hollow centre. Ken Kasino had once planned to move it into orbit around Repugnius and build a massive hive of gambling lunacy inside. In the end he could not be bothered. Another moon of interest was the large planetoid, Epicuro, a blistering world of arid hell but with, curiously, a useful oxygen rich atmosphere. For the first time in decades, a lifeform walked on its surface.


Kathwoman stood next to her stylish flame red shuttle craft at the entrance to Murkite Cave. She cracked her whip impatiently and gazed down towards the floor of Copus Canyon, four kilometres below. The searing heat of the blinding sun distorted the view in a dreadful manner. She sweated profusely as the sixty seven degrees celsius air wafted around her leather clad frame. She looked upwards. The deep blue sky was half filled with the magnificent disk of Sanctius, the giant red gas planet that this parched moon orbited once every three hundred hours. Also in the sky, two large shapes could be seen. Smaller shapes moved slowly around them. They were the battle fleets of Kathwoman and Lawrence.

A small black and awesomely armoured transport vessel thrusted into view and made a perfectly smooth landing on the ridge outside the cave. A large exit ramp crashed open, sending a cloud of dry yellow dust into the sweltering air.

"Kathwoman!" A voice shouted through the dust. "You look gorgeous!" Lawrence appeared and strode confidently towards her, his black velvet cloak billowing in the stifling breeze. He stopped two feet in front of her and smiled sordidly. She didn't like that look.

"Bastard!" She shouted, punching him hard in the face.

Lawrence fell to the ground, blood dribbling from his nose. He leapt back to his feet and performed an adequately powerful roundhouse kick to Kathwoman's left thigh. She buckled in pain and dropped to her knees, grabbing Lawrence's leg as she did so. He fell back, smashing his head against a small rock. Kathwoman crawled over to Lawrence, sat on his waist and held his arms to the floor.

"You look fantastic!" Lawrence said in a dazed fashion.

Kathwoman headbutted him hard.

The lord of puss now looked even more dazed.

"Shut up!" Kathwoman shouted wickedly.

Lawrence gawked at her. "Let's talk." He said quietly.

"OK." Kathwoman said. She got to her feet and helped Lawrence do the same.

Lawrence wiped the blood and sweat from his face and smiled sordidly once again. Kathwoman rapidly connected the sole of one of her knee length, black leather boots with Lawrence's chest. He smashed backwards into the side of his transport vessel and crumpled to the ground.

Lawrence looked at Kathwoman and laughed. "Ha harr! This is phenomenal!"

"We talk now or I go!" Kathwoman said sharply.

"You're right." Lawrence replied, finding it hard to draw breath. "Let's go inside my craft where it's cooler."

"No! Let's go into mine."

"Don't you trust me?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because you're a bastard!"

Lawrence could not argue with that. "OK, yours it is!"

Kathwoman climbed into the hatch of her shuttle, closely followed by a gasping Lawrence. The air conditioned environment inside was such a relief. Kathwoman seated herself in the pilot's chair at the front of the cramped cabin. Lawrence, still aching and breathless from his beating, slumped into one of the two passenger seats at the back. The interior was entirely leather lined, held on by large brass studs. Data screens displayed vital information in a hue of blood red.

"What is your proposal?" Kathwoman asked, peering wildly into Lawrence's eyes.

"It's cunning!" He replied deeply. "Cunning with a capital 'K'!"

Kathwoman listened intently.


"Blenheim?" Panman asked, leaning back in his chair and placing his feet on the weapons console, "how long until we reach the Ephluvii System?"

"FIVE MINUTES AND FOUR SECONDS." Came the digital reply.

"Really? How far away is it?"

"ZERO POINT FIVE ZERO SEVEN LIGHT YEARS."

Panman thought for a few seconds. "That means that we’re travelling at maximum subspace speed - six light years per hour!"

"AFFIRMATIVE."

"Cool!"

Panman's brain enhancements allowed him to perform astounding feats of mathematical magic.

"Hello there!" Peter the Ace exclaimed, bounding onto the bridge and taking up his position at the command chair. "What's our status?" Jayne Eye-Catcher and Belinda followed him close behind.

"We'll be there in a few minutes." Panman said.

"Did you do some research into the possible locations where Lawrence and Kathwoman could meet?"

"Yeah." Panman said proudly. "The only place that they could meet is on Epicuro, one of the moons of Sanctius."

"Sanctius!" Belinda exclaimed excitedly. "That's the largest planet ever discovered!"

"Indeed it is." Peter the Ace said.

"It's probable that there is a large fleet of hostile ships in orbit around the moon." Panman said.

"Yes." Peter the Ace said. "We will have to perform a near atmospheric subspace emergence manoeuvre to avoid engaging them."

The near atmospheric subspace emergence manoeuvre was a very skilled tactic that only the top bounty hunters knew how to perform.

"Jayne and Belinda?" Peter the Ace said with measureless authority. "You'd better return to the Euphoria. You'll have to detach the millisecond that we return to normal space."

"No problem!" Jayne Eye-Catcher said desirably. Both she and Belinda left the bridge and headed up to the topside docking hatch where their ship was securely attached.

Peter the Ace began to program the command console with total proficiency. Panman activated all of the weapons systems that he could lay his fingers on. The forward laser lancers, the front and rear missile bays, the topside and bottom side fusion cannons, the gamma pulse generators and, of course, the Destabilizing Epidermal Atrophy and Total Horror Device, known simply as D.E.A.T.H.

"I'm done!" Peter the Ace announced.

"Me too!" Panman said.

"We're ready!" Jayne Eye-Catcher said over the communicator.

"Let's go for it!" Peter the Ace said with great timing.

The Blenheim and the attached Euphoria entered standard space and were treated to a breathtaking view of Sanctius and Epicuro. The Euphoria detached itself immediately and followed the Blenheim down into the dense atmosphere.

"I'm scanning two battle fleets above." Jayne Eye-Catcher said.

"We see them." Panman said. "I scan at least five thousand ships, two of them huge!"

"Deep scan the surface of the moon for lifeforms." Peter the Ace ordered, guiding the Blenheim ever closer to the shimmering deserts below. "Jayne, stay close."

"Staying close." Came the alluring reply.

The two awesome starships levelled off at an altitude of three thousand metres.

"I've found something!" Panman shouted, pointing to the scanner's view screen.

"Where?" Peter the Ace asked, piloting the Blenheim between two dormant volcanoes with awe-inspiring adeptness.

The Euphoria followed close behind.

"Two hundred and twelve kilometres to the north, in the Copus Canyons."

The two ships altered course immediately and surged northwards, lowering their altitude to a mere one hundred metres. Warning lights and sirens sounded on both ships. Their shields were raised automatically.

"CONDITION RED." The Blenheim announced. "ENEMY WEAPONS SYSTEMS HAVE ACHIEVED LOCK STATUS."

Panman checked his scanner. The two mother ships hundreds of miles above had found them.

"Evasive!" Peter the Ace shouted as he masterfully rolled the Blenheim into a deep crevasse. The Euphoria dipped into an adjacent valley and zig-zagged between some giant, rocky outcrops. Blinding beams of pure energy poured down from the orbiting battle ships and blazed into the surface, gouging out one hundred metre deep scars around both of the bounty hunter spacecraft. Debris was ejected high into the air. The beams tried to get the two fast moving ships but to no avail. Their pilots were much too skilled.


Kathwoman looked out of the front view port of her shuttle.

"Our ships are firing at the surface!" She announced.

"What?" Lawrence said, following her gaze. He turned back and hit the communications panel. "General Bloatbucket!"

"Yes, Lord of Filth?"

"What are you doing?" He screamed satanically.

"Two ships, one of them the Blenheim, are skimming the surface and are heading in your direction."

"Why didn't you inform me?" He yelled, his face burning red with rage.

"I had no time, they came so quick."

"How long until they reach us?"

"One minute, three seconds."

"What?" Lawrence growled viciously. "Destroy them now!"

"We are trying my Lord but they are such cool pilots. We can't hit them."

"Send down skull fighters immediately!"

"Yes, rancid one."

"We must leave." Lawrence said to Kathwoman, leaving her shuttle.

"Bastard!" She shouted, kicking his backside.

Lawrence fell forward, smashing his face into a large boulder. He got to his feet, wiped the blood off his face and smiled sordidly at back at her. "See you soon." He said quietly, and then ran into his transport ship.


"One hundred and sixty six fighters on their way down!" Panman exclaimed excitedly, a chance for some serious target practice was imminent.

"We see them." Jayne Eye-Catcher said over the communicator.

The Blenheim and the Euphoria ducked into the Copus Canyons, still under fire from the two mother ships. Chunks of molten rock spewed into the heated atmosphere as the beams of energy cut mercilessly into the surface.

"Two small ships are lifting off from the Medial Peak." Panman said, examining his screens.

"That's them!" Peter the Ace said. "Jayne Eye-Catcher, you take the red one, that's probably Kathwoman's. We'll get Lawrence."

"No problem!" Jayne Eye-Catcher said.

The Euphoria banked to the right and powered towards the small shuttle that was thrusting out of the canyon. The Blenheim headed for the black transport vessel that was heading west.

The skull fighters had come within ten kilometres.

"The fighters are in range." Panman said. He opened fire. The top and bottom fusion cannons began to emit rapid pulses of energy at a frighteningly satisfying rate. Within seconds, twenty enemy ships had been vaporised. The remaining fighters split into two groups, one of the groups changed course to follow the Euphoria. The other stayed with the Blenheim. Both groups opened fire on their respective targets. Several beams hit the Blenheim but were absorbed by its shields.

Panman continued to fire, destroying another dozen or so craft with relative ease. "Evil mothers!" He shouted gleefully. Panman was on an incredible high.

Peter the Ace concentrated on Lawrence's transport ship ahead. For such a small ship, it was incredibly fast, and Lawrence was, it seemed, a remarkably good pilot.

Both the Euphoria and the Blenheim continued their pursuits with one hundred and thirty two skull fighters hot on their heels.

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